It’s Year VIII of the King on our current NBA Tuesday miniseries, and this our first series entry for the calendar year 2023. This was the last of eight straight seasons that LeBron James played in the Championship Finals, and perhaps that was a relief for both himself and the league (see below). Either way, it’s a feat that probably won’t be matched anytime soon, so we still can enjoy and respect the accomplishment for what it was, even if James only won 3 of those 8 matchups. Read on!
2018 NBA FINALS MVP: Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State (original, confirmed)
With each game decided by an average of 15 points, there was no drama in these Finals as the Golden State Warriors won their third title in four seasons with an easy sweep over James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Warriors small forward Kevin Durant won his second consecutive Finals MVP with the following stat line: 28.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 7.5 apg, and 2.3 bpg in 41.3 mpg. He led his team in minutes, scoring, rebounds, and blocks while finishing second in assists. Durant really was “Superman” on this super team.
James may have been the better player in the series (34.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 8.5 rpg, 1.3 spg, and 1.0 bpg in 44.8 mpg), but there’s no value in getting swept. The fact that the closest game in the series still produced an 8-point win for the Warriors shows us that everything James did occurred in a void. Thus, Durant wins our hardware, too. Odd to think at this point that the Warriors’ great star, Stephen Curry, had not won an official NBA Finals MVP yet, even if we gave him ours for the 2015 title.
2018 NBA DPOY: Rudy Gobert, C, Utah (original); Andre Drummond, C, Detroit (revised)
It was an odd year for defense, as only one player surpassed our DWS threshold for this award: Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (5.73). The vote winner, Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert (our pick last year for this trophy), managed just 3.9 DWS in 56 games. We can’t give the hardware to a guy who played just two thirds of the season, even if his value prorated might have been over the threshold above. We haven’t worked that way at all in this space, and we won’t start now.
So, Drummond it is, again, as we gave him this award in 2016. This time out, here are his numbers: 10.9 defensive rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game. Drummond also topped the NBA in overall rebounding (16.0 rpg), which helped the Pistons to third-best scoring defense in the Eastern Conference. In fact, Detroit was outscored on the season by 0.1 points per game, which would have been a much bigger gap without Drummond. Somehow, he finished just 15th in the voting with the best DWS mark.